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Wheelchair walk

Federal law to improve accessibility planned for spring

CityNews | posted Monday, Oct 16th, 2017

The federal minister responsible for crafting Canada’s first national accessibility legislation says the law should be ready by next spring and should benefit not only people with disabilities, but also their caregivers.

Kent Hehr says the timeline for the new law has shifted slightly since he took over the portfolio for sport and persons with disabilities in a recent cabinet shuffle.

The legislation, which is highly anticipated by Canada’s disabled community, was originally set to be unveiled either late this year or early 2018.

Hehr says he is up-to-speed on past consultation efforts and is moving ahead with future ones. He hopes to table the legislation before the House of Commons by next spring.

Hehr says he intends to focus on the issues disabled Canadians identified as priorities during an eight-month consultation process, including high unemployment levels and accessibility of federally run buildings and services.

But Hehr says his own experience as a quadriplegic has made him particularly keen to ensure that caregivers’ needs are also addressed through the new bill.

Hehr, who has used a wheelchair since being struck by a bullet while witnessing a drive-by shooting 27 years ago, said he has personally witnessed the essential role caregivers play and wants to be certain their contributions are never overlooked.

“I rely a tremendous amount on my mom, my girlfriend, my sister, as well as my caregiver … without their help, their assistance, their contributions to my life, I simply could not do the job I’ve been entrusted to do,” Hehr said in an interview with the Canadian Press. “I understand, first-hand, that they have to be part of this mix.”

Hehr did not disclose details of what caregiver benefits might entail, but said the legislation was part of a government-wide approach to removing barriers that prevent people with disabilities from fully participating in society.

Hehr’s reflections on caregivers came as good news to at least one advocacy group representing their interests.

Disabled groups from coast to coast have made it clear that Canadians have lofty expectations of the federal legislation, which they maintain is long overdue to bring Canada in line with countries such as the United States.

In a report released to Carla Qualtrough, Hehr’s predecessor on the file, Canadians laid out six areas of focus for the new bill.

Those who took part in consultations wanted to see laws that would help lower unemployment rates that hover around 50 per cent for those with disabilities, reduce the number of buildings inaccessible to those with physical and intellectual disabilities, and remove accessibility barriers for the country’s air, rail, ferry and bus transportation systems.

Those consulted also named government program and service delivery as another key area of focus.

There was also a desire for an independent body to make sure the new law has teeth.

Hehr, who served as Veterans Affairs minister before taking over from Qualtrough in August, said the new law will address these priorities but declined to offer concrete details at this point.

Joanne Bertrand of the Ontario Caregiver Coalition said the group’s voice had not been included in consultation efforts to date, adding there are myriad ways in which federal legislation could make life easier for those providing support to disabled people.

New laws, she suggested, could make it easier and less expensive to travel with a disabled person.

The legislation could also put measures in place at banks, which would fall under the purview of the new laws.

Bertrand suggested caregivers often act as substitute decision-makers for disabled loved ones, saying existing systems make it very difficult to carry out those duties effectively.

“I think it’s very important that there be an awareness by employees in various businesses and organizations that substitute decision-makers are not only representing, but expressing the wishes of the people that they are the decision-maker for,” she said.

Bertrand said the health care sector as a whole is moving towards treating patients and caregivers as a unit and addressing the needs of each, adding she hopes the federal government will follow suit.

Disability rights advocates, too, welcomed news of caregiver inclusion in the pending law.

“It’s something that’s been missing for awhile,” said Marcia Yale, a visually-impaired activist who has been involved in soliciting input on the legislation. “No one gets compensated for human work or for doing the right thing.”

The proposed legislation would govern areas that fall under federal jurisdiction, such as banks, telecommunications, and interprovincial transportation.

Ontario college faculty go on strike

CityNews | posted Monday, Oct 16th, 2017


Faculty at 24 Ontario colleges went on strike late Sunday, affecting more than 500,000 students.

The Ontario Public Services Employees Union says the two sides couldn’t resolve their differences by a strike deadline of 12:01 a.m. Monday.

“There was really nothing left that we could put forward, nothing more coming from the employer,” Nicole Zwiers, a member of the union bargaining team.

The faculty regrets the effect on students, but many understand the issues at play, said Zwiers.

“It’s always a case that there is always a high degree of upset, which is absolutely understandable,”said Zwiers in an interview Sunday night. “I think that many of our students are indicating to us that they understand the issues that we’re facing.”

There was no indication on when talks might resume said Zwiers, but the union remained optimistic.

The College Employer Council, which bargains for the colleges, called the strike completely unnecessary.

“We should have had a deal based on our final offer. It is comparable to, or better than, recent public-sector settlements with teachers, college support staff, hospital professionals, and Ontario public servants — most of which were negotiated by OPSEU,” said Sonia Del Missier, a spokeswoman for the council, in a statement.

The union’s demands would have added more than $250 million in annual costs, the council said.

The union presented a proposal Saturday night that called for the number of full time faculty to match the number of faculty members on contract.

It also called for improvements in job security and for faculty to have a stronger voice in academic decision making.

The strike involves more than 12,000 professors, instructors, counsellors, and librarians.

Strike ends at Toronto’s Pearson airport

CityNews | posted Monday, Oct 16th, 2017

Striking workers are seen picketing at Pearson International Airport in Toronto on Friday July 29, 2017.There were widely differing accounts Sunday on how Canada's busiest airport coped with the strike of 700 ground workers. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Christopher Katsarov

Striking ground crews at Toronto’s Pearson International Airport have accepted a tentative contract.

Employees at Swissport voted 63 per cent in favour of the new agreement reached earlier this month and will return to work on Wednesday.

The Teamsters, which represents the workers, says the three-year deal contains minor improvements on wages, benefits and scheduling.

The 700 ramp equipment operators, baggage handlers, cabin cleaners, and other ground crew workers went on strike July 27.

The workers had complained about pay and benefits cuts, scheduling issues, and what their union called a lack of respect from Swissport managers.

The company services 30 airlines at the airport, including Air Transat, Sunwing Airlines, British Airways, Cathay Pacific, Air France, KLM and Lufthansa. Air Canada and WestJet are not serviced by the company.

Man manages to escape after hydro pole falls on car in Vaughan

CityNews | posted Monday, Oct 16th, 2017

A hydro pole damaged by gusty winds on Sunday afternoon struck a car on Rutherford road, south of Islington Avenue. CITYNEWS/Stefano Gallucci

A man says he does not remember how he escaped from his car after a hydro pole collapsed and fell on it due to heavy winds in Vaughan on Sunday afternoon.

The man, identified only as AJ, told CityNews he was driving slowly down Rutherford Road due to heavy rain and wind. He could see trees swaying back and forth and then spotted the pole starting to fall south of Islington Avenue. He tried avoiding it, but it landed on his car and smashed through the windshield.Pole-on-car-Stefano-Gallucci-Islington-and-Rutherford-e1508101003849-878x494

AJ says he “blacked out” and does not remember getting out of the car or how he escaped with live hydro wires surrounding his vehicle. He took himself to hospital for treatment of minor injuries.

Several damaged trees and hydro poles were reported across Toronto and the GTA after gusty winds blew through the city on Sunday afternoon. A wind warning previously issued by Environment Canada ended around 4:15 p.m.

Power restored to most customers after heavy winds hit Toronto on Sunday

CityNews | posted Monday, Oct 16th, 2017

A fallen tree on Browning Avenue following gusty winds in Toronto on Oct. 14, 2017. CITYNEWS/Adam Stiles

Power has been restored to the almost 25,000 customers left in the dark after a walloping wind storm blew through the city on Sunday.

Toronto Hydro said crews are still working to return power to about 650 customers. The power outages are spread out in small patches throughout the city.

Extra crews were brought in to help restore power overnight and will continue to work until power is restored to all customers.

The heavy winds knocked down trees and power lines across the city and prompted Environment Canada to issue a wind warning for most of Sunday afternoon.


Environment Canada predicted wind gusts of 70 to 80 — and even 90 — kilometres per hour in parts of northern and southwestern Ontario.

Very blustery winds moved through the city and the GTA during the afternoon hours, picking up speed around 3:30 p.m. The warning officially ended around 4:30 p.m.

CityNews viewers sent in photos and videos from their neighbourhoods as wind and rain began lashing Toronto on Sunday afternoon.


TTC again disappointed Bombardier will miss streetcar delivery target

CityNews | posted Friday, Oct 13th, 2017

New TTC streetcars in Toronto. CITYNEWS/Diana Pereira

Bombardier Transportation is reigniting disappointment in Toronto by notifying the city’s transit authority Thursday that it won’t meet this year’s target for delivering streetcars.

The Montreal-based company’s rail division says it informed the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) that because of supply chain issues it will deliver 65 vehicles by the end of the year, short of its original target of 70.

Bombardier says it has met every quarterly delivery commitment since launching its turnaround plan last year to get production back on track.

It expanded the production line in Thunder Bay, Ont., hired more employees, invested in developing its manufacturing sites and called upon the expertise of its global workforce.

“We own this challenge, and we fully intend to do everything necessary to mitigate the impacts,” said communications director Eric Prud`Homme.

Consequently, it will increase production by doing final assembly at two sites and adding additional suppliers.

TTC chairman Josh Colle and CEO Andy Byford called the delivery shortfall “extremely disappointing and frustrating.”

They said there should be 146 new streetcars in service, instead of just 45.

“This is completely unacceptable,” they said in a news release. “The TTC is having to continue to use buses on streetcar routes to meet ridership demand.”

The transit agency launched a $50-million lawsuit against Bombardier in 2015 for its ongoing inability to meet delivery targets. It also issued a request for information last month from potential suppliers who can deliver 100 streetcars that are part of the options in the Bombardier contract.

Bombardier maintains that it remains on track to deliver the entire order of 204 streetcars by the original contract deadline of 2019.

There is still fun to be had the weekend after Thanksgiving

CityNews | posted Friday, Oct 13th, 2017

World Poutine Eating Championship at Yonge-Dundas Square. Photo credit: Facebook/Poutinerie

It is the weekend after Thanksgiving and you may still be cleaning up after having your family and friends over for festivities. If you are looking to take a break from housework, there are plenty of things to do around Toronto and beyond to keep you entertained.

World Poutine Eating Championship
This festival is all about fries covered in cheese curds and brown gravy– poutine! The dish originated in Quebec in the late 50s, and has since become a Canadian staple. Smoke’s Poutinerie 8th annual World Poutine Eating Championship is on this weekend. Described as the largest poutine eating competition and coming in as the second largest eating competition in the globe, officials are promising free poutine, interactive games and live entertainment. There are three competitive categories for participants, which include: amateur, charity challenge and professional. The event takes place Saturday at Yonge-Dundas Square.

Elvis impersonators
If Elvis Presley were alive today, what would he think of his impersonators? I’m sure he would be “all shook up.” Elvis tribute artists will be competing at Flaming Star Festival, which is being held at the Crowne Plaza Toronto Airport from Friday to Sunday. The first and second rounds of competition take place on Friday and Saturday, along with open mic sessions. Previous champions will perform in a ‘showcase of champions’ on Saturday. The finals, including a gospel competition, are on Sunday afternoon. The event is poised to be “a hunk, a hunk of burning love.”


Zombie Walk
Halloween is less than three weeks away, but the zombies cannot wait. Their time to walk among the living is now. Zombies will swarm the streets of Kitchener on Saturday afternoon, and you can join them. All you have to do dress up like one. Zombies who are 16 years old or younger need to have written consent from their parents to attend the walk, while teens aged 15 or younger need to be accompanied by a parent of guardian. There is no cost to attend the Zombie Walk, but walkers are asked to bring a non-perishable food item.

Free movies
If you love movies and free things, then this is for you. Cineplex is showing a selection of movies from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. on Saturday, and you can watch them for free. Some of the movies include “Trolls” and “Ice Age: Collision Course.” Movie-goers can munch on popcorn, select candy and soft drinks for $2.50. You can also purchase motivational bracelets for $2. Doors open at 9 a.m. and the movies start at 9:30 a.m. Tickets are available on a first-come first-serve basis. Money raised from the community day event will go to WE Charity.

2XU Toronto Women’s 8k/5k
An autumn race to keep you in top shape throughout the fall months. This weekend women will be lacing up for the 2XU Toronto Women’s 8K/5K – being put on by GoodLife Fitness for Women. Organizers say this race is also a good way to celebrate another great season of running. Family and friends of runners are being encouraged to come out and support them on race day. Toronto Firefighters will be on hand at the water stations, and there will even be a post-run party with chocolate and fun activities planned. The women’s run is on Saturday at Sunnybrook Park, located at 1132 Leslie St. Runners can pick up their race kits, starting at 7:45 a.m. The 8k run begins at 9 a.m., while the the 5k is at 9:15 a.m.

Hot Docs Podcast Festival
The second annual Hot Docs Podcast Festival returns this weekend. People will get the opportunity to see their favourite podcast hosts brings parts of their audio shows to life on stage. Hosts will also be chatting about their craft, and fans who attend will have the opportunity to network with some of them. The festival began on Thursday and runs until Sunday at the Hot Docs Ted Rogers Cinema at Bloor and Bathurst streets.


Leaders of Canada, Mexico say they’re not walking away from NAFTA

CityNews | posted Friday, Oct 13th, 2017

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, left, and Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto shakes hands during a meeting at the Palacio Nacional in Mexico City on Thursday, Oct. 12, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

The leaders of Canada and Mexico joined forces Thursday to combat the idea that an aggressive U.S. demand during the NAFTA negotiations could tank the deal.

The latest potential poison pill came in the form of a U.S. proposal for a sunset clause, that would see any new North American Free Trade Agreement terminated after just five years.

The current deal has been in place for over two decades.

But both Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto said the proposal remains just that, an idea, and it will be discussed just like everything else on the table.

“We will continue to take very seriously the work we do and we will not be walking away from the table based on proposals put forward,” Trudeau said at a joint news conference with Pena Nieto in Mexico City’s stately National Palace.

“We will discuss those proposals, we will counter those proposals and we will take seriously these negotiations.”

Trudeau and Pena Nieto talked with their aides and then their foreign affairs and trade teams for close to two hours Thursday afternoon, and while the two sides were discussing a range of issues, the ongoing talks to rework NAFTA were top of mind.

Pena Nieto suggested that while observers have made predictions that certain proposals could tank the talks, that’s only speculation.

“I would not pay much attention to any statements other than that which happens (at) the negotiation tables,” he said, according to an English translation of his remarks.

Pena Nieto indicated he was paying attention to a suggestion from U.S. President Donald Trump on Wednesday that should NAFTA talks fail, bilateral deals could be negotiated instead.

Trudeau didn’t rule out the notion, and Pena Nieto said he did discuss it with the prime minister during their talks.

But he said he also heard Trump say that the three countries could find a creative way to negotiate a new trilateral pact.

“I think that Canada and Mexico share the idea that the NAFTA agreement is a good mechanism, it’s not the only one but it’s a good mechanism to potentialize the development of the North American region and to turn it into the most competitive one.”

Efforts by Canada and Mexico to deepen their own bilateral connections, however, were on full display Thursday.

In the room during the news conference were dozens of Mexican firefighters who assisted in combating wildfires in B.C., while prior to their meeting, Pena Nieto took Trudeau past a photo display of Canadian relief efforts in the wake of devastating earthquakes in Mexico last month.

Trudeau had stopped by a Red Cross aid distribution centre earlier Thursday as part of his government’s approach of engaging in more public diplomacy events to encourage foreign relations.

But the formal side is equally important. Trudeau will address the Mexican Senate on Friday, one of only a handful of foreign leaders to have ever done so.

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